MUMBAI, India – Women in India came together to mark International Women’s Day, saying they would try to “resolve all differences and to spread love, harmony and fraternity as enshrined in our constitution.”

Presentation Sister Dorothy Fernandes, the Director of the Aashray Abhiyan campaign for shelter, led the organization’s celebration on March 6 with about 200 representatives from slum settlements, political parties, sewing centers and the state of Uttar Pradesh.

“We will celebrate our sisterhood, which knows no language, no caste, no class, we stand together with humanity, who are struggling to make both ends meet,” she said.

“As women inflation hits us the most, when we constantly forced to make choices as to how to keep the family together, to feed, cloth, educate and ensure that no one feels left out,” Fernandes continued.

“In addition to this we also see our role as contributing to the economy of the family as we realize in these difficult times we have to support the family. We have learnt the art of balancing home and work; so when we speak of governance we know what we are speaking about,” she said.

This year the theme for the day was, “The role of women in saving the Constitution and democracy of India.”

“Down the years the role and contribution of women have gone unrecognized; in a patriarchal society, men have used their power, politics to subjugate women,” Fernandes said.

The religious sister said a “clarion call” was given on Feb. 21, when 3500 women and activists in Karnataka gathered to recall the contribution of Rani Cheenamma in opposing the imperialistic rule of the British.

Cheenamma was the Indian Queen of Kittur, a former princely state in present-day Karnataka. She lived from 1778 to 1829 and led an armed resistance against the British East India Company, in an attempt to retain control over her country. However, she was later captured and died a prisoner of war.

“To recall this great event, we honor the struggles of Rani Cheenamma and many other women leaders who were convinced of their role to save our Motherland. They fought violently, though they never won because it’s difficult to oppose the mindset of men,” Fernandes said.

The chief guest on the meeting was Dr. Felicitas Roelofsen, a cancer surgeon from Germany.

The meeting discussed the Kittur Declaration released on Feb. 21 in an event marking the anniversary of Cheenamma’s death. “The Kittur Declaration is a promise to highlight the atrocities, injustice, repression and the tyranny of this regime. The last decade has seen an unprecedented erosion of our democratic institutions,” said women’s rights advocate Varsha Deshpande who read out the declaration last month.

“In every aspect of our lives, our rights have been diluted. Our Parliament and our judiciary have been weakened; the social fabric torn asunder; our economy shattered; our education system and health system corporatized and privatized; our farmers betrayed; our lands snatched away; new labor laws deny the rights of the workers; our women have been attacked and assaulted; our children are malnourished; the LGBTQIA are under intense pressure; and at the same time the powers of the ruling classes, have increased and the people are being silenced by the use of force,” she said on Feb. 21.

On the March 6 event, Mukund Singh of the RJD party spoke about the challenges she faces in politics being a young woman coming from the minority community. She said she has come out successful and stands as a model for women who inspire, who is moving ahead with strength and determination training young minds to develop their talents, making space for themselves in the world.

Singh invited the young women and girls at the assembly to encourage each other; she cited the example of being one of six girls in the family and the support and encouragement she received from her mother.

Aiman Fatima, a young psychologist, spoke about her engagement with the young women on the periphery as she mingles with them, encouraging them to live their dreams with determination.

“We as women have decided to take this struggle forward, have decided not to give up and do all in our power to translate women power into votes,” she said.